Chinese Patrol Vessels Approach Disputed Senkaku Islands

Kitakojima Minamikojima Senkaku Islands
Two of the disputed islands – Kita-Kojima (left) and Minami-Kojima (right)

Three Chinese vessels crossed into Japan’s territorial waters off the Senkaku Islands yesterday, as reported by the Japanese Defense Ministry. The Japanese Coast Guard reported the vessels entered Japanese waters from north-northwest of the islet of Kubajima around 1000 local time on Monday morning.

The vessels were identified as Hai Jing 2102, Hai Jing 2305, and Hai Jing 2350. These vessels belong to the Chinese Coast Guard and are patrol boats. The Hai Jing 2102 is approximately 65 meters (215 ft) in length, while the Hai Jing 2305 and Hai Jing 2350 are both 98 meters (322 ft) in length, according to the Office of Naval Intelligence’s PLA(N) Identification Guide. The vessels reportedly remained in Japan’s territorial waters for about two hours.

China also claims the islands, which they refer to as the Diaoyu Islands. Taiwan further claims the islands, calling them Tiaoyutai.  The islands are located south of Japan’s Ryuku island chain and north of Taiwan in the East China Sea. They are believed to have large undersea deposits of oil and gas that would benefit natural resource constrained nations such as Japan and China; they are further valued for commercial fishing.

Just last week, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the United States on a state visit to discuss, among other concerns, the deepening security relationship between the two countries. A stalwart ally in the Pacific for nearly 70 years, Japan hosts more than 54,000 U.S. Army, Marines, Navy, and Air Force personnel assigned to bases around the country. The nations have worked recently to solidify defense ties under a collective security agreement. The updated Guidelines for U.S. – Japan Defense Cooperation can be found here.

During Abe’s visit to Washington, President Obama emphasized the strength of the U.S. – Japan alliance, and the unwavering U.S. commitment to that partnership. Discussions were held to update guidelines for defense cooperation – the first such talks in nearly two decades.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, President Obama reaffirmed the expanding cooperation, training and operations of U.S. and Japanese forces. He emphasized the depth of the U.S. resolve, stating “I want to reiterate that our treaty commitment to Japan’s security is absolute, and that Article 5 covers all territories under Japan’s administration, including Senkaku Islands.”

It remains to be seen whether China will choose to further test this commitment to the Senkakus.